Top Tips for a Day Trip to Catalina Island & What to Pack

I recently went to Catalina Island with my family and couldn’t believe it took me over 25+ years of living in California to discover it.  This is another off the beaten path, California gem and has something to offer everyone.  Santa Catalina Island is an island located 22 miles off the Southern California coast on the easternmost part of the Channel Islands and is a district of Los Angeles County.  Whether you visit on the weekend, holiday, or midweek, these are some of the best costs saving tips and more for a great day trip on this gorgeous location! 

To get from Catalina from the mainland you can catch a ferry at all these ports, Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point and Newport beach.  You also can fly directly into Catalina’s only airport 10 miles from Avalon. 

We took the catalina express for $75 round trip from long beach to avalon

1. Take the Boat Ride!

Be sure to bring nausea/Dramamine medicine if you get seasick on boats.  You get to see marine life, enjoy the views, take in the geography.  Once you arrive you can rent out lockers to store bags.  Remember to bring quarters. 

2. Beach Time with Lunch and Drinks!

You can book through Catalina Island Company or directly at locations for activities.  We suggest booking ahead of time for a 11am – 4pm reservation at Descanso Beach Club—the only private beach where you can sit and enjoy beverages/cocktails.  Be sure to check hours of operation as they change from low to peak season.  There are cabanas, chaise lounge chairs (that you can rent from $55-$410), changing room, showers, towels, cold water and beverages and food service.  You can rent floaties and snorkeling gear for water play.  The beach is rocky, so we also recommend bringing water shoes.  Other public beaches in Avalon are South Beach, Middle Beach, and Step Beach.  

3. Rent a Golf Cart!

Golf carts and bikes can be rented by the hour ($45/hour for 4 or 6 person carts).  There are a few outfitters to rent from, we recommend Catalina Island Golf Cart at the corner of Avalon and Pebbly Beach Road.  Be sure to check hours of operation as they change during low to peak seasons.  OR take the Avalon Transit Public Garibaldi Bus for $2 around the island, including a stop at the Botanic Gardens. 

4. Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Gardens…

…is a great way to spend some time and conveniently located off the bus route.  After a stroll in the gardens head back towards town and stop at The Sand Trap for happy hour and $2 tacos.     

5. Crescent Street

Hit up Crescent Street and stop at Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionary for ice cream before hopping back on the last ferry to Long Beach at 7:45pm.

Other activities to explore on the island for extended stay:

  1. Snorkeling is $55 for 2-hour tour and Water Play.  The water was too cold in April for us to do but for summer months this is a highly recommended activity.  Casino Point off Avalon is mecca for snorkeling or Two Harbors, Recreation and Dive Center.  The Avalon Dive Park is a well-established marine preserve and offers an abundance of local aquatic life.  You can get informative guide who can help you with identifying the fascinating marine eco system/world like schooling fish, kelp, bat rays, giant black sea bass and more. 
  2. Ziplining – Catalina Zipline Eco Tour $130 per adult
  3. Falconry $89
  4. Catalina Parasailing $70 per person
  5. Submarine Tour $40
  6. Scuba Diving $115 per certified person for 2 hours
  7. Bison Expedition $90 per person
  8. Golf Gardens $12 adults/$10 children  

What to Pack for a Day Trip to Catalina Island:

  • Dramamine or nausea pills for boat road
  • Quarters for lockers
  • Bathing suit, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses 
  • Camera or I phone
  • Good walking shoes
  • Water shoes
  • Layers
  • Snacks, energy bars and fruit 
  • Water bottle

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